(Reuters) - Canadian Corey Conners clinched an astonishing two-shot victory over American Charley Hoffman at the Texas Open on Sunday to punch the final ticket to the Masters.
Conners, ranked 196th in the world, compiled a crazy, rollercoaster six-under-par 66 that included 10 birdies in the final round at TPC San Antonio.
He followed four early birdies with four consecutive bogeys on the front nine before storming home with six birdies and three pars to claim his first PGA Tour title.
“It just doesn’t seem real,” Conners told reporters after finishing at 20-under 268 to secure his second shot at the Masters after playing as an amateur in 2015.
Hoffman birdied the par-five 18th to shoot 67 and claim second place, a shot ahead of fellow American Ryan Moore (64).
South Korean overnight leader Kim Si-woo (72) faded to equal fourth with American Brian Stuard (66) on 15-under.
“I’ve been close a few times and feel like I’ve learned a lot in those situations and that really helped today,” said Conners, the 15th Canadian to win on Tour.
“I couldn’t be more excited to get over the edge. There’s so many perks that come with it.”
The 27-year-old from Ontario was so low on the pecking order that he was not even exempt into the Texas Open.
Instead, he had to run the gauntlet of a Monday qualifier, among 73 players competing for four spots.
Six players ended up in a playoff for the final berth, and Conners was the man to emerge triumphant and he went on to become the first Monday qualifier to win since 2010.
Conners started the final round a shot behind Kim, but powered to a four-shot lead after just five holes as the birdies flowed.
But what the golfing gods give, they also take away, and the Canadian lost those four strokes as quickly as he had gained them as Hoffman took the lead with a birdie at the ninth.
“Got off to a great start, birdied number five and walked to sixth tee thinking, ‘wow, this is really awesome’ and then reeled off four bogeys,” Conners said.
“I didn’t get too down on myself. I knew I was playing really well. It was nice to have a little break between nine and 10 and give myself a bit of a pep talk.”
Although Hoffman did not drop a shot on the back nine and picked up three more birdies, it that was not enough to stop a rampant Conners, whose putter was running hotter than a Texas summer as wife Mallory watched on nervously from the gallery.
Conners came to the last with a three-shot lead and held his nerve to book the final seat on the Sunday night charter flight to Augusta, where the first major championship of the year will tee off on Thursday.
“The last few holes are a bit of a blur,” he said.
“Big change of plans. It was just going to be an off week but it’s not now.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney/Peter Rutherford